If there are three particular idiosyncrasies about Asian palates it's our love of bones, skin and fat.
The roast suckling pig embodies all three in glorious gormandizing hedonistic glory.
I had the good fortune to be invited to dine with Veruca Salt and her family on Chinese New Year's Eve, a night which traditionally involves a reunion dinner for celebratory feasting.
The Chinese New Year mandate for excessive eating provided the perfect excuse for Veruca to order a whole suckling pig.
And who was I to argue?
Veruca had been planning this feast for weeks. There was a tentative menu brainstormed over a month before, discussions, deliberations and days of dedicated research before preparations began in earnest.
The result? See for yourself:
Yee sang (raw fish) salad
This salad is traditionally eaten on New Year's Eve, or on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year. All guests toss the salad at the same time, using chopsticks to toss it higher and higher as they call out good luck wishes to bring prosperity.
Ours had salmon strips, pickled ginger, daikon, carrot, garlic chives and coriander (cilantro). We improvised a dressing of light soy, mirin, lime juice and honey.
Canh ga don (stuffed chicken wings) and
cha gio (spring rolls made with banh trang rice paper)
The midwing is deboned and stuffed with a mixture of pork mince, carrot, vermicelli and mushroom. They are placed in a steamer to cook, and then deep-fried to a golden brown.
Cha gio (also known as nem ran in Vietnam's south) are made with banh trang rice paper; the semi-translucent sheets of starch give a chewy almost tacky texture when deep-fried.
Crispy skin chicken
A mammoth task involving marinating, simmering, drying, glazing, more drying and finally deep-frying.
Goi cuon (summer rolls)
Steamed whole perch with soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and shallots
Whole fish is another must-have dish at Chinese New Year. Only half should be eaten and the remaining eaten the next day, as the word for fish sounds like surplus.
It's all about homophonic coincendences!
Whole roast suckling pig
But it's always the pig that gets the most attention.
With good reason...
The crackling was lightly salted, crisp and yes, indeed, delicious. It was the only dish that was purchased, and although it wasn't quite as earth-shattering as some we've had, we forgave it on the grounds of Chinese New Year-driven customer chaos.
There was a gluttony of desserts: homemade pandan coconut jelly (by A), homemade mango pudding (Veruca again) and an entire crate filled with juicy sweet delicately perfumed longans.
Related GrabYourFork posts:
Chinese New Year Eve: the build-up
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2/02/2006 11:47:00 p.m.